Executive summary (official way to TL;DR):
- Rebuilt computer in newly-released Salvo Studios S401 mITX case
- Incremental upgrades over original RVZ02 build
I completed my first computer build in April of last year. My core need in an mITX build was ability to fit in a small desk area with flexibility for travel. At the time, I wasn’t well-versed in the breadth and depth of the options available in the small form factor market. I was most drawn into the console-style cases and selected the Silverstone RVZ02 upon recommendations from guides and builds I studied at the time. When I first opened the package, I was a bit taken aback by its size. It was larger than I expected. However, the price, availability, and features were all at the right spot for me in the hobby. From others’ builds, I was able to maximize the cleanliness and effectiveness of my build (accolades given in my other build log).
One day, while browsing PCPP, I stumbled upon two builds (this one and this one) which featured a short-run (40 units) console-style case that was smaller, better constructed (as short-run boutique cases tend to be), and, most impressive to me, had a single-vented side for all the components (i.e. motherboard and graphics card facing the same way). This case was the Salvo Studios S400. It featured support for mITX motherboards, full-length dual slot graphics cards, and SFX power supplies (I learned this wasn’t to be taken for granted in boutique SFF builds. Cases like the NFC Skyreach 4 Mini, which require smaller and more expensive AC-DC and DC-DC power solutions, are awesome in their own right but would require starting a lot more of my build from scratch). I was smitten with both its form and its function: its open vented nature looked would limit heat build-up. I also hated having to choose between enjoying the view of only one half of my PC at a time (terrible choice, I know). Alas, the S400 was at the end of its run with all units sold. I cursed my timing and brooded dark as the Raven my PC was built in.
I was led by these S400 builds to the Small Form Factor Network and Forum. I found an incredible community of innovators and pioneers. Many of the biggest names in SFF computing have active presences there. I also found the Salvo Studios thread there and leaped in. I saw that a revision for the S400, dubbed the S401, was in the works. Initially, I was on the fence about spending more money on my computer (I’m still a bit bitter with Ryzen-regret having committed to the i5 mere months before the Ryzen-revolution). However, interacting in the forum through the months affirmed my resolve little by little. Finally, the day came when the money was charged and the box arrived!
Disassembly of the RVZ02 was bittersweet but straightforward. I disco’d and unbent all the cables that I had tucked and twisted away those months ago. I also decided to peel the ribbons apart for a bit more cable flexibility at the expense of flatness and becoming more birds’ nest-like. I planned to rebuild over a two-day period but ended up putting nearly everything in on the same day. All of the changes I made from my original RVZ02 build till now were done prior to rebuilding in the S401 (see below).
Assorted upgrades from the original RVZ02 build:
Cooler fan has been through several iterations. I had hacked on a loud, but powerful, 92mm Bgears fan. The noise bothered me more than the slight performance boost so I moved to a Noctua NF-A9, also kludged on. The S401’s cooler clearance is less than the RVZ02 so that meant another switch to the Thermalright TY-100 was required. The seller for that also offered 3D printed fan adapter brackets for the Cryorig C7 so I added that on as well for a more professional installation. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure out the whole screw installation thing properly so zipties saved the day. It hasn’t bothered me yet and actually gives a little extra color to a somewhat bland build.
On the topic of cooling, the S401 has mounts for 60mm fans so Gelid Silent 6’s are in service via splitter. Cable management is a little hairy up there but nothing is interfering so far.
I swore up and down I wouldn’t spend money on silly and useless things like RGB but here we are. I was tired of the dull orange light on the Raven being my only visual indication the machine was on so I contacted a custom modder from a recommendation and I received the RGB strip. The remote doesn’t always respond but for a splash of rainbow joy, it does the job fine. It looks glorious in the vented pattern of the S401.
GTX 1070 turned into a GTX 1080. How did that happen?! Incidentally, at the height of the mining craze, the 1070 sold for nearly what I paid for the used 1080 (pre-mining days). Can't really complain.
Also, added another SSD. Not sure how that happened either. I'm deciding what to do with it. It might be overkill for putting games on. It may be a good way to experiment with dual-booting. If that fails, maybe I’ll add the games.
Pricing of components is a bit all over the map due to the incremental-over-time nature of this build/upgrades. Prices were alright for the time the items were bought. <shrug>
S401 review (included here since custom parts can't be reviewed): A five-star effort from a one-man operation. Volume is significantly less than the Raven and every dimension is slightly shrunken, an elusive goal for an mITX build. Perceived amount of space taken on my desk is a fair bit smaller. Build quality is stellar - as in, it could fall from the stars and probably survive. The galvannealled steel plating used is tougher than nails (not sure if it literally is or not, but I only had one material science class in college). The handle accessory could be used as a weapon in its own right. The handle and feet use the same mounting points which consist of a locking notch and thumbscrew which is an awesome innovation. The feet have a tiny bit of wiggle but nothing that’d contribute to tipping. I’d have no problem using the handle to transport the PC around.
Inside, things can get a bit tight, especially with cable management between the motherboard and PSU. I followed Salvo’s build guide (which is stunning for its quality). Drive clearance is fine behind the graphics card (there are four mounting points for slim 2.5” drives. 3.5” drives are supported but require a shorty card). I used SATA power cable extensions to get power to the drives to minimize interference. Graphics card alignment is a bit tight but it’s in solidly and connected soundly. The RVZ02 used a PCIe riser card; the S401 uses a quality extension ribbon cable. The PSU plug came a bit close to the power button but the pins were bent out of the way and a little spacer was included. Salvo has published a fairly lengthy list of SFX and SFX-L PSU compatibility. Cooler clearance is a little on the short side, so anything much taller than the Cryorig C7 probably won’t make the cut. See below for my comments on temps.
Buttoned up, everything starts up as if I hadn’t done a thing and the look is gorgeous. Salvo offers multiple acrylic side panel options custom laser cut including an option for your own logo or image on the solid side. I have a set of prototype mirrored acrylic panels installed with the default Salvo logo and it’s a spectacle beyond my expectations (I have a set of prototype panels so that’s why you may notice a blemish here and there). I will likely use the default steel panels for travel and installation of the add-on dust filter in case my lack of vacuuming becomes an issue.
I haven’t much hard temperature comparison data to share, at least not scientifically. The numbers seem slightly better than the Raven because of the openness and additional small fans. Noise also seems fairly even despite all the fans now facing me. I’ll keep an eye and ear on things as life goes on. I’ll probably also need a look at my fan curves to see what’s what. I’ve also not tried it with the dust filter.
Swinging over to the website, the base case is $165 which I think is a steal considering the short manufacturing runs, tight build quality, and unique feature set. Accessories like the handle, custom dust filter, fans, and the beautiful acrylic side panels can be added for extra. I think they are great add-ons.